Transformational Executive Leadership: How and Why?

By Scott Latham

Like many other state bankers associations, the Alabama Bankers Association has for years had a program for its younger bankers—a leadership division called Bankers 2 Leaders—to provide educational and networking opportunities. While beneficial in some aspects, this group had become stagnant and needed more direction and focus. It existed, but it did not have a clear purpose.

That’s why in January 2016, the group’s board came together to discuss the future and how to reinvent itself to become a true resource for Alabama’s emerging leaders. What began as a conversation of where to go led to the development of a transformational new program aimed at building the banking industry’s future leaders. Imagine a program that brings internationally known speakers to train a small group of highly motivated mid-to senior-level bank executives during the course of an 18-month program designed to equip these executives with the ability to handle the challenges associated with moving into new and more complex leadership roles.

Our association has a robust education department, as well as a highly effective banking school. What we lacked was a comprehensive solution to teach our bankers “healthy leadership skills” to complement the technical aspects of banking—skills like negotiation tactics, conflict resolution and team building. After working with a consultant to find high-level speakers and develop a program, our Bankers 2 Leaders launched its Bank Executive Leadership Certification Program and began accepting applications in July 2016. Only 40 participants were chosen after a competitive application process. And last December, the group met during a two-day opening retreat that began with an in-depth assessment of each individual’s current leadership abilities and charted a course for growth.

Since then, the group has met on a quarterly basis and heard from speakers such as Deepak Malhotra from the Harvard Business School, Brian Jones from Pat Lencioni’s Table Group, and Rob Cross from the University of Virginia. Topics covered during the program include leadership expression, managing relationships and professional networks, leading and managing an effective team, leading through the deal, leading change and the whole leader.

Upon graduation, participants will return to their organization with several skills, including the ability to think strategically, recognize strong leadership qualities in themselves and others, communicate persuasively, deliver and receive feedback, problem solve effectively, manage internal and external politics, build effective teams, lead through and manage conflict, identify and develop top talent and align multiple life roles that improve time management, reduce stress and decrease burnout.

Participants have given the program rave reviews so far. In addition to what they are learning from each session leader, participants say they like the small, elite group and the opportunity to develop relationships with bankers from other institutions of varying sizes and in different markets.

Within the ABA-state association alliance, we often discuss the need for transformational programs to strengthen the course of our respective state’s financial industries and future leaders, beyond just training leaders for tomorrow. In Alabama, we believe our newest program is a good step in that direction. Our industry is strong because we have solid leadership. Yet as our state’s top bank leaders edge closer to retirement, we hope this program will prepare the next generation for all that lies ahead.

Scott Latham is president and CEO of the Alabama Bankers Association.